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“Beautiful and Challenging Day Hike”

Cathedral Lake Trail
Ranked #25 of 109 things to do in Aspen
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Attraction details
Owner description: This excellent hiking area outside Aspen is ideal for beginners and those who enjoy easier trails.
Reviewed 7 September 2012

Cathedral Lake is well worth the hike up to it, but casual hikers should be aware that you will gain 2000 feet of elevation in the course of a relatively short hike. In guidebooks it is generally listed as a moderate hike, but that may be underselling the amount of effort needed to get to the top. It is definitely one of the prettiest and most enjoyable hikes close to Aspen.

1  Thank Scott R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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50 - 54 of 65 reviews

Reviewed 26 August 2012

Cathedral Lake is in a beautiful shelf area surrounded by scenic rocky peaks. The lake sits at over 11,800 feet, at treeline, and the few trees that still grow at this elevation are the stunted conifers known as krumholtz. Willow thickets, and tundra make up the remaining vegetation, making this a good place to take in alpine wildflowers. Pikas, pine grosbeaks and ptarmigan are resident animals, with the occasional marmot thrown in for good measure. The lake has a good population of cutthroat trout easily observed from most of the rocky shore.

The well maintained and easy to follow trail is about 2.5 to 2.75 miles long, and gains over 2,000 feet. The only real creek crossing is spanned by a planed log bridge, so you can usually keep your feet dry, unless you go early in the summer and the run-off is particularly heavy. This is a steep trail, with numerous switchbacks, at fairly high elevation. If I were writing this review for an outdoor oriented audience, it would fall into the moderately strenuous category. Plan on a minimum of one and a half hours hike to the lake if you are reasonably fit (I don't do trail running, so cannot comment on this use of the trail). If you do not routinely engage in strenuous exercise at elevation, you will find the hike more difficult, and even a moderate pace will leave you panting for breath. Allow considerably more time if your hiking pace is normally less than two mph under steep conditions. Adequate footwear will make the hike far more enjoyable (hiking boots or trail running shoes). Sharp rocks you will encounter on the crossing of talus slopes make sandals a questionable choice for this hike.

The Cathedral lake trail provides a splendid glimpse into the myriad of incredible landscapes in this vicinity, and will well reward the prepared hiker (bring rain gear, a sweater, plenty of water, something to eat, your camera). A side trip for the eager hiker takes you to Electric Pass at 13,500 feet. Keep an eye on the weather if you attempt the pass. It's not called "Electric" pass without reason.

1  Thank MisterGoat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 July 2012

I read other reviews of this hike and wanted to add my perspective. I am 49 years old and in decent (four hour marathon) shape, but not all-American shape and did this trail with my 19 year old son on the first day after flying in from sea level. We had tried to do this hike a few years ago but started out too late and got caught in a thunderstorm 3/4 of the way up. This time we started out at 8 am and made it to the lake in two hours with a few rest stops. Of note is that it also took about 2 hours to get down, as we were stopping to take photos and I was worried about slipping. We did not have particular trouble either way, but I would recommend hiking poles as there are some technical parts where they can prevent you from falling.

The lake is beautiful, with clear water. The other scenery at the top included rocky above-treeline peaks and alpine meadows. There were 8 switchbacks late in the trail that weren't as tough going up as going down. It did remind me of hiking up something equivalent to AMF or KT gully at snowmass.

Thank David P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 July 2012

A beautiful hike above Aspen. I would listen to the other reviewers about acclimating before attempting the hike. Plan on taking 2 to 2.5 hours to get to the lake. Make sure you have plenty of water. The total experience is about 4 hours round trip.

Thank Awb7bar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 July 2012

Beautiful hike with a scenic lake at the top - fairly strenuous but can be done in 2.5 hours going at a moderate pace (we live at sea level and it was our 3rd day in Aspen). if you have energy left you can continue up to Electric Pass for remarkable vistas.

Thank relkdl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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